Star: Premiere – Manufactured Pap (Review)

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Star is what television looks, and sounds, like when it attempts to use a Jackie Collins template without the author. The show premiered on FOX Wednesday evening. It has an impressive cast, Queen Latifah, Benjamin Bratt and Lenny Kravitz are the bigger names of offer.

(Kravitz is a personal favorite as he help open the new SLS Casino and Hotel in 2014 and this reviewer got to watch him perform from about 15 feet away. Electric does not quite cover it…)

Sadly, Lenny has preciously little screen time (perhaps the right word would be mercifully) as the music idol father of one of the three girls destined to become musical sensations.

Kravitz has roughly three lines and these are as snotty as his character. The man could have phoned it in.

As could Queen Latifah. Sure she gets to sing, but her character is every stereotypical “mother-figure” ever seen on TV.  Benjamin Bratt is a dodgy musical promoter who has the “hood” patter down pat but he too seems like so much window dressing.

Ms. Brown plays a has-been who now looks after a beauty parlor inhabited by the flotsam and jetsam of the neighborhood. A gay “racist” hairdresser and a daughter who is really a boy underneath all that attitude and hair.

These are just two of the tropes trotted out in order to give the show some sort of “cred.” (Some would argue that featuring a transgender may not constitute a trope but apart from the new term, blokes dressing as women because of gender issues is not new, despite what Hollywood and the LBGTQ would have the public believe.)

The plot reads like a Collin’s tale, although the setting is on the East Coast and not in Hollywood. Two talented singers born on the wrong side of the tracks. Each from a foster-home environment, one is treated as a slave and the other sexually abused, and one headstrong rich  girl whose daddy is in the business.

The rich kid believes poppa has sold out and runs away from home to team up with her musical sisters. It all feels a little like Carlton running away from home in The Fresh Prince of Bel Air.

None of the main characters speaks in anything that remotely resembles real language. It is all “hood-speak” that may go far in defining who they are but says little else about the girls other than they know the slang.

This may well be the biggest failing of the new show.  All the main players sound like caricatures of people. Two dimensional cutouts posing as the real thing.

Star wants to be a musical, a’la Dreamgirls but without the excellent music and singers who can really bring it when performing. The parts and songs have not been written well enough for the actors to wow the camera or the audience.

The series comes across as a “wannabe” Dreamgirls for the mentally challenged. There is not one nuance to be found amongst the cliches, tropes and dumbed down plot.

The final verdict? Give this one a miss unless you have all the sense and sensibilities of a 12 year old.

Cast:

 

SNL: Lin-Manuel Miranda Mic Drop (Review)

 Saturday Night Live - Season 42

Saturday Night Live hit a massive high note with guest host Lin-Manuel Miranda. With his opening monologue, aka opening musical number the toast of Broadway literally could have ended his open with a mic drop.

The show was on top form, much like last week’s, which featured Margot Robbie as guest host. Alec Baldwin reprised his “Donald Trump” and the show’s cold open had Cecily Strong, Baldwin and Kate McKinnon doing their bit to poke fun at the latest “Trump trash” to hit media streams.

(For those who missed it, Trump proved to be even more misogynistic and sexist than anyone could have imagined. Speaking like a 14 year-old in a sports locker room on an open mic.)

It was Lin-Manuel Miranda, however, that shone in every skit he participated in. The hot, hot, hot star was in every sketch and skit, sans the very short Melania’s Dream gag.

Just to show how it could not really get any better than that opening monologue, watch Miranda just kill it in the video below:

There were three standout sketches in the show. Stranger Things was hilariously spot on and featured a star turn by “new girl” Melissa Villaseñor who did a spot on impression of Winona Ryder in the Netflix series.

McKinnon also knocked it out of the park as Eleven, as did Leslie Jones as Lucas’ never before seen mom.

On a sidenote, Sasheer Zamata was great as Lucas and actually got a lot more than just “face-time” on the show. Miranda played Dustin and Kyle Mooney was Mike.

The skit addressed the issue of Lucas’ parents never being seen on the Netflix favorite. (For that matter we never saw Dustin’s folks either…) This was almost on par with Lin-Manuel Miranda’s open and that political cold open.

The pre-recorded spot, “Day Off” with Kate McKinnon was brilliantly funny. She played Kellyanne Conway, the spokesperson for Donald Trump.  Set up primarily as a montage of how Kellyanne was enjoying her day off it veers off into comic gold.

Conway is torn away from her day off every time Trump opens his mouth. It was funny and McKinnon sold it as only she can.  If nothing else has been learned from the 2016 political race,  it is clear that Donald Trump will provide fodder for comic routines for years to come. This skit proves it.

Clearly Lin-Manuel Miranda was the draw of the evening.  Even Tina Fey and Jimmy Fallon wrangled a spot on Weekend Update in order to share stage space with Miranda.

The Wells Fargo skit was funny “We’ll even open an account for your dog.” Although the highlight may well have not been Miranda’s portrayal of a banking Harold Hill.

It was Mooney’s lisping  Winthrop Paroo who took that honor with his rejoinder to Aidy Bryant’s  character: “Thay that to my faith bith.”

The Crucible Cast Party was a laugh for anyone who took drama classes and  remembers those rather tame cast parties.  All the SNL ladies rocked it in this one although it was only really funny if the viewer had “been there” so to speak.

Musical guest Twenty One Pilots was a crowd pleaser whose music was catchy although the lyrics were a bit eclectic.  While not everyone will rush out to purchase their latest tracks the songs were impressive;  despite those  quirky song lyrics.

So far SNL have rocked it out of the park season 42. Two for two. Out of the “new kids” Villaseñor has shot out of the starting gate like a rocket.  We cannot wait to see more of this talented performer.

SNL airs Saturdays on NBC.  Tune in and catch this brilliant start to the season.

SNL: Season 42 Premiere – Margot Robbie Blasting Out of the Gate (Review)

 Saturday Night Live - Season 42

Welcome back Saturday Night Live. All is forgiven. After a previous season that had more misses than hits the premiere of SNL season 42 was an epic win. Guest host Margot Robbie, who clearly has arrived,  did a fine job with her monologue and was hysterically funny in “The Librarian” (a pre-recorded bit of ’80s nostalgia.)

The  show blasted out of the gate with special guest Alec Baldwin doing his Donald Trump impression.  Alongside Emmy winning  performer Kate McKinnon (who showed just why she earned that award in the “Actress Round Table” skit) Baldwin and Kate killed  it in the show’s open.

(The Willy Wonka gag got less laughs than it should have for some reason…)

Robbie, still red-hot after her Harley Quinn performance in Suicide Squad,  appeared in a number of skits. She even got to portray Darlene in the Mr. Robot parody at the end.

The highpoint for Margot had to be The Librarian. The ’80’s pastiche  that combined the “Oh Yeah” song from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off with a brilliant dose of bizarre science fiction.

After the monologue, where Margot “fact checked” everything she said, the show started off with a “live news report” where a sinkhole had just swallowed up seven cars.

Robbie, who is an incredible 11 out of 10 marks for stunning, and her bespectacled husband (played by Neil McNabb) are the eyewitness couple that Kenan Thompson’s reporter speaks to.  The gag in the skit is how on earth this mild mannered chap wound up with such a beautiful wife. This was brilliantly funny and it felt like SNL had gotten their mojo back.

Saturday Night Live - Season 42

Other skits included the Family Feud political lineup with Thompson once again donning his Steve Harvey persona.  Robbie played Ivanka  Trump, Larry David reprised his Bernie Sanders and new kid on the block Melissa Villaseñor did a pretty decent Sarah Silverman.

(The Silverman inclusion had to be an in-joke since the performer was briefly part of the the SNL stable.)

There was a “homage” skit called “The Hunch Bunch” that was a parody of Scooby-Doo without the animated mutt.  Kudos, by the way to Kyle Mooney for doing a very funny “Shaggy.”

Saturday Night Live - Season 42

The Hunch Bunch featured a mystery solving gang who are all pretty PC.  Robbie, channeling her inner Harley Quinn is the odd one out and her boyfriend Tad is mortified at her verbal gaffes.

As the gang come in contact with the old man haunting the place, Becca Ashley (Robbie) shoots him in the back.  One of the group tells the rest that the old chap is still alive and Becca Ashley cocks her pistol and aims down at the prone figure.

“Oh no, I’m not going back to jail…”

While not hysterically funny the skit was amusing and, once again, was more like SNL used to be. A bit silly overall but it allowed a vague Harley Quinn reference in.

The clear winner, in terms of skits (versus pre-recorded sequences like The Librarian) was the Actress Round Table discussion. McKinnon ruled this one. Her anciently old performer was truly hysterical and had guest host Margot Robbie corpsing throughout the skit.

One other notable thing about the roundtable skit was that it featured Sasheer Zamata, the more silent cast member of SNL. The performer actually got more than the usual one line spot.

The Weekend Update was a staggering 14 minutes long, easily taking up the lions-share of the episode.  It was the usual Jost and Che double-act treat. Topics covered were the Colin Kaepernick national anthem issue and of course politics.

Cecily Strong and Kenan Thompson gave performances and musical guest The Weeknd did a cameo spot.

Saturday Night Live - Season 42
The Weeknd

The Mr. Robot sketch (with Pete Davidson as Elliot Alderson) did a riff on the Leslie Jones computer hack that was funny. It was also a sign that the Sam Esmail series has “arrived.”

Saturday Night Live - Season 42
Mr Robot – Elliot and Leslie

This was a brilliant start to season 42.  Robbie did very well for her first time. And there were moments where the comedy was so spot on that tears of laughter were spilled.

SNL airs Saturdays on NBC. May the comedy seen thus far continue. Stop by and check this newest season out and keep an eye on Melissa Villaseñor.

Joe Cocker English Blues Singer Dead at 70

Joe Cocker English Blues Singer Dead at 70

Joe Cocker, the English blues singer who rasped out his version of the Beatles song With a Little Help From My Friends and made the Lennon McCartney tune a hit for a whole new generation of fans, is dead at the age of 70. While Cocker reached the number one slot with his take on the classic in 1968, it was when ABC’s The Wonder Years used the Sheffield born performer’s rendition of the song as the theme tune for their show in 1988 that this Woodstock singer was brought to the attention of younger fans.

Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Rock Star Beer Festival

Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Rock Star Beer Festival

October 18, 2014 saw the Rock Star Beer Festival at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino start at 6 p.m. and as the evening wore on, the crowd increased exponentially as did the fun had by all. The event was held at the Rehab Pool and on top of the music and people there, breweries had a number of different beers on tap, and in bottle, for aficionados to sample and enjoy. For those who do not find fizzy lager and beer tasty there were alternatives.